Oil paints are known for their beautiful pigments and royal qualities. Every serious oil painter knows the importance of using a painting medium to enhance the quality of the paint.
Linseed oil is a popular painting medium that helps to improve the flow of the paint, regulate the thickness, and lengthen its drying time. When used well, linseed oil can make oil painting a lot more enjoyable while enhancing the final look of your painting.
So, how do you paint with linseed oil? Linseed works great as a paint medium for adjusting the consistency of your paint. When mixing linseed oil with paint, start with small amounts and work your way up to your preferred consistency. There are several other important things to keep in mind as well.
If you are new to oil painting and want to explore this oil painting medium, read on to find out all your need to know about using linseed oil in your painting.
Why Use Linseed Oil?
All paints have three components: the pigment, binder, and extender. While the pigment is relatively the same across the board, the difference between water-based paint and oil-based paint is in the binder and the extender.
The binder in the paint helps the liquid stay together, and the extender helps the paint flow easily. Artists can add more binders (such as linseed oil) or extenders (like a paint thinner) to manipulate the consistency and quality of the oil paint as they see fit.
With oil paint, the pigment is mixed in with a type of drying oil, which can be linseed oil, walnut oil, poppy oil, etc. Linseed oil, which is derived from the flax plant, has been used in painting since the 12th century.
Since it is a binder, adding linseed oil to your oil paint helps boost your paint’s pigment, helps the paint flow better, and extends the drying time, which gives you more time to work with the paint while it is still wet. When dry, your painting will have a shinier quality compared to paintings that haven’t used linseed oil.
How is this different from using a paint thinner? Paint thinners like turpentine or mineral spirits are actually liquids that literally thin out your paint. While paint thinners are great for applications like airbrushing, some painters don’t love the liquidy texture that paint thinners give.
Using linseed oil is a great alternative to achieve a thinner consistency for the pigment while still maintaining the oil paint’s integrity.
Types Of Linseed Oil
Like acrylic painting mediums, linseed oil comes in a few variations, with various characteristics. When selecting a suitable linseed oil for your paint, you should take note of the various advantages and disadvantages below.
1. Refined Linseed Oil
Refined linseed oil is collected through a process that uses heat and alkali to extract it from the seed. As a result, it gets its oil out of the seed but also brings small bits of the plant with it.
Refined linseed oil can be found in most art supply stores since it is very affordable and highly popular. It can be added to oil paint to thin its consistency and increase its drying time. However, because refined linseed oil is often considered a lower grade oil, the colors can yellow a bit after drying.
2. Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil
Cold-pressed refers to the type of linseed oil that has been extracted without heat. Because of this, cold-pressed linseed oil is considered a purer and better quality oil. You can actually use cold-pressed linseed oil as a binder to make your own oil paint just by adding pigment.
Compared to refined linseed oil, this type of oil is quicker to dry. The result usually has a glossier quality than refined linseed oil.
3. Linseed Stand Oil
Stand oil is a thick, honey-colored oil that has the consistency of honey. It works well as a glazing oil and is less yellow than refined linseed oils.
Because of how thick stand oil is, painters love to use it to create a very smooth painting surface with minimized brush strokes or textures.
4. Drying Linseed Oil
As the name suggests, drying linseed oil actually takes faster to cure, so it is often used to speed up the drying time. Drying linseed oil is not as popular as other types of linseed oil because of its dark tint that can affect the final look of your colors.
How To Use Linseed Oil
In the old days, linseed oil was considered a binder, but nowadays, artists often think of it as a painting medium that can help them manipulate the paint to just how they like it. Painting mediums can help extend or decrease the drying time of your paint, create various sheens and colors, and make your oil paint easier to work with.
Linseed oil is a great painting medium that can enhance the final texture and finish of your painting. Some types of linseed oil, such as cold-pressed linseed oil, can also be great as binders to help you create your own oil paint just by mixing in some pigment.
Depending on the type of linseed oil you are using, the final result can have a dark or yellow tint that is not at all what you intended when using the oil. Most oil mediums are naturally yellow, which means that they can be a bit sensitive to mixing with lighter colors.
When working with lighter colors, use a cautious hand when mixing in linseed oil so that you can keep the yellow tint under control. It is best to approach this medium cautiously so that your whites don’t turn yellow after the paint dries.
One big tip when working with linseed oil is when you are building up the layers of your painting for a long time. The old masters used to spend years working on a piece, and linseed oil is a lovely assistant to help them in this process.
“Fat on lean” is a principle that you need to keep in mind when building up the layers of your painting over a long period of time. When working on your painting in several layers, you will need to mix in more oil after each layer to help your paint stay put on the surface.
Why is that the case? You have probably heard that your canvas can expand when it absorbs moisture and contracts when it comes into contact with heat and dries up. This natural rhythm of the canvas can sometimes cause the paint to crack if the paint does not move along with the canvas.
If you have a “fat” layer (a layer with more oil) on top of a “lean” layer (a layer with little to no oil), you can help your paint adapt to this motion. The fat layer will expand and contract more than the lean layer, which helps the paint layer on top of your painting stay put even when your canvas is exposed to the elements.
What Paint Can Be Used With Linseed Oil?
Linseed oil can be used with most types of oil paint.
You should never mix linseed oil with any type of water-based paint, like acrylic paint or chalk paint. Water-based paint uses a latex binder, and oil and water simply do not mix, so the linseed oil simply will not work with any kind of water-based paint.
If you want to use linseed oil as a binder to make your own paint, then you will need to use pure quality oil, like cold-press linseed oil, to mix in your own pigment. You can buy paint pigments from most art supply stores.
The oil-to-pigment ratio is entirely up to you, as you can manipulate the paint quality based on how much oil and pigment that you use. You can also use paint thinner to thin out the paint consistency, which will make the paint easier to work with.
Linseed oil paint can be thinned with every paint thinner commonly used for oil paint. That means you can use mineral spirits, turpentine, or other types of paint thinner to clean your brushes and surfaces that have been stained with paint.
What Can I Paint With Linseed Oil?
Linseed oil paint is commonly used on almost any surface. It can be painted on untreated wood, MDF, and other wood materials. It can also be used on pressure-impregnated wood, as long as this wood has been dry outside for some time.
When working with a porous surface, you should also apply the “fat on lean” principle. Since wood can also expand and contract as it is exposed to moisture and heat, you should adjust the linseed oil in each layer to make sure that the paint can also adapt to the elements.
When using linseed oil to paint on new concrete and plaster, you will need to wait until the surface is pH neutral before painting, which can take up to 8 weeks. Linseed oil paint can also be used to paint over alkyd oil paint or acrylate plastic paint.
Do not paint with linseed oil on surfaces that contain wax or silicone. Also, avoid painting surfaces with a moisture content of more than 15% because the paint will not stick to the surface very well.
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